Friday, 17 July 2009

Justification: Understanding the Reformed Doctrine - Part 12 Challenges to Imputation & 2 Cor. 5:21

In chapter 9, Fesko focuses on challenges to the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness, particularly as seen in the work of N.T Wright. In the recent debate over imputation, Wright argues that there are only two passages to which one might appeal: 1 Corinthians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (p243)

Wright argues that 2 Cor. 5:21 cannot support the traditional Reformed understanding of imputation for a variety of reasons. Among those reasons:
  • The passage speaks of God's righteousness, not Christ's
  • "Righteousness" means covenant faithfulness
  • To read the passage in terms of imputation does not make sense of the overall context and provides the reader with a somewhat detached gospel statement
Regarding "righteousness" as meaning "covenant faithfulness", Fesko states: If his [Wright's] offered interpretation regarding the covenant faithfulness of God is correct, in what way is God faithful to his covenant? What does covenant faithfulness actually mean? Would it not entail the forgiveness of sins? Would not God's covenant faithfulness entail the atonement of Christ? Would it not involve soteriology, the salvation of sinners? Even if his contention regarding the proper understanding of the righteousness of God is correct, it is unclear how he can excise or underemphasize the soteriological aspects from this passage. (p252)

Fesko also cites Beale's argument that Isaiah 53 is the specific subtext to 2 Cor. 5:21. We see the dual ideas of forgiveness and imputation, for example, when we read "the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6b) and "by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:11) Contra Wright, therefore, God imputes his righteousness in Christ, which means the righteousness of Christ to those who are saved. (p252)

We'll look at 1 Cor. 1:30 in the next post.

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